Category: Essential Economics for Business: Ch 11

The article below by William Keegan is a discussion of a recent seminar he attended on ‘Black Wednesday and the rebirth of the British economy’. The seminar led him to consider whether policy makers should be guided mainly by rules or discretion in the development of policy. Many would argue that we have moved away from discretion and moved more towards fiscal and monetary rules for the implementation of policy, but the article discusses the extent to which this may be true.

When the going gets rough, can our rulers rely on the rule book? Observer (18/11/07)


1. Explain, using examples as appropriate, the difference between policies based on fiscal and monetary rules and discretion.
2. Explain how the MPC “largely ignores the cumulative dangers of a high exchange rate” in its determination of interest rates for the UK economy.
3. Discuss how effective the adoption of an inflation target has been in management of the British economy in the past decade.

The Governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King, has signalled that the next year may be the toughest for 15 years with lower economic growth than previously forecast. So, is the UK economy going off the rails?


1. Explain the main reasons why the Governor of the Bank of England expects a worse than forecast level of economic growth in 2008.
2. Discuss the extent to which a cut in interest rates will help prevent an economic slowdown. What adverse effects could follow from such a policy.
3. Discuss one other policy that the government could adopt to try to reduce the extent of the forecast slowdown in economic growth.

The Northern Rock crisis has caused significant repercussions in the UK financial system. It may continue to do so as the various groups bidding to take over the beleaguered bank try to persuade the government to write off the interest owed on the money borrowed in the run-up to the crisis. In the Guardian article below the build-up to the crisis is considered in detail, while in the other article Anatole Kaletsky argues that central banks need to stand firm against pressure from financiers.


1. Explain what is meant by the term ‘moral hazard’.
2. Examine the main factors that led up to the Northern Rock crisis.
3. Summarise the main reasons why Anatole Kaletsky argues that central banks need to stand firm when pressurised by City financiers.
4. Assess the likely impact of the Northern Rock crisis on the performance of the UK economy over the next year.

Bolivia may have the second largest gas reserves in Latin America but it also has an acute shortage of diesel. People have blamed a variety of causes: smugglers, the government and nationalisation. In truth, the cause may be a combination of all these factors, but whatever the cause, the diesel shortage is acting as a significant constraint on further economic development and is an ongoing headache for the President Evo Morales.

Fuelling Bolivia’s crisis BBC News Online (8/11/07)


1. Use supply and demand analysis to illustrate the reasons for the shortages in diesel in Bolivia.
2. Explain the impact that fuel subsidies may have had in causing the shortages of diesel. Use supply and demand analysis to illustrate your answer where appropriate.
3. Discuss the underlying factors that may be leading to the shortages in diesel.

President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela has built up the pace of turning Venezuela into a socialist state with sweeping reforms, including extensive nationalisation. This has always been a controversial policy (not least with the private companies which will be taken into state ownership) and threatens to create further social tension in Venezuela.

Nationalisation sweeps Venezuela BBC News Online (15/5/07)

1. What are the economic implications of the creation of a ‘socialist state’?
2. Many of the poorest in Venezuela do not have full access to key services such as telecoms. Assess the extent to which nationalisation will help extend the reach of these services to all groups in society.
3. Discuss the arguments for and against bringing key industries into state ownership.